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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Traveling on the testing company's dime



Plenty of people already complain that Pearson seems to have a lock on Florida's testing culture, despite its publicized failings over time.

So it does little to assuage concerns when the NY Times implies that former Florida education commissioner Eric Smith took a trip to Helsinki, Finland, on Pearson's expense account even as the department he oversaw had multimillion-dollar contracts with the firm.

Smith did not respond to the NYT's requests for an interview. He was one of several state education leaders reported to have traveled on the Pearson Foundation. From the report:

Mark Nieker, president of the Pearson Foundation, dismissed any ethical concerns about providing free trips to people his corporate cousin is pitching for business. “We categorically refute any suggestion or implication that the partnership is designed to enable Pearson ‘to win contracts,’ ” he said in a statement. Rather, Mr. Nieker said, the trips are “in pursuit of educational excellence.”

But Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, a centrist group, compared the practice to pharmaceutical companies that run junkets for doctors or lobbyists who fly members of Congress to vacation getaways. “If we want that kind of corruption in education, we’re fools,” he said.

Awaiting comment, if any, from the Florida Department of Education.

[Last modified: Monday, September 19, 2011 3:37pm]


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